Want to maximize muscle growth and recovery? Then make sure you finish your day on a high note with the right kind of protein. First, here’s a little background. Resistance training builds muscularity and strength by promoting anabolism, especially in trained muscle. As such, for a few hours after heavy exercise, your body enters a window of heightened protein synthesis (muscle building) counterbalanced by slight increases in catabolism (muscle breakdown).
Science tells us that boosting blood amino acids within this window blunts catabolism and drives protein synthesis up even further, leading to efficient recovery and greater gains. So it’s no surprise that most athletes chug a protein shake on their way out of the gym.
Science also tells us there’s a tight relationship between elevated blood amino acid levels and elevated anabolic state, whether you’ve trained that day or not; in other words, there are swings in protein synthesis throughout the day that coincide with protein feeding. This is why you must consume meals regularly throughout the day to maximize progress.
Now back to finishing strong. Recently, a research group from the Netherlands published an eloquent review in the journal Nutrients highlighting the importance of daily protein supplementation, noting that it is crucial prior to sleep. The scientists observed that muscle protein synthesis rates are particularly low during sleep, even when a protein shake is ingested immediately after training in the evening.
However, when athlete subjects ingested 40 grams of casein protein before bed, they were able to boost protein synthesis rates by about 22 percent throughout the night compared to a placebo. The researchers concluded that greater amino acid availability during sleep stimulates muscle protein synthesis rates and improves whole-body-protein net balance during overnight recovery.
ACTION POINT: To promote robust stimulation of muscle protein synthesis rates during the night, ingest at least 40 grams of high-quality micellar casein or a sustained-release protein blend immediately before bedtime on training and rest days.